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Elfyn Lewis discusses the quietness of his ’sculptural’ new paintings

26 May 2024 6 minute read
New works by Elfyn Lewis at Gallery Ten

Stephen Price

Celebrated Welsh artist, Elfyn Lewis is presenting a solo exhibition at Ten Gallery, Cardiff this month, and has spoken to Nation.Cymru about the development and soul searching behind his moving new works.

Lewis is famous for his style of ‘pulling’ paint across the surface of the picture using a trowel or squeegee, building layers upon layers of thick paint.

There’s been an important development in Lewis’s familiar method – that of ‘capturing’ the flow of paint.

The paint – which is so much a part of the art, and a distinctive element of the work – is now as if frozen in place.


Those layers become amplified further as they accumulate in pools on the edges, held from the back by wood.

Here we see part of Lewis’s process which was left on the studio table – that overflow has become an integral part of his paintings

This latest body, Gweledigaeth (Vision) sees a calming of the palette, with only a cluster of colours being used – magenta red, emerald green, cyan blue, black and white.

In a few pieces, only two colours are seen on the surface, meeting in a haze of a horizon line.

The finished texture is smooth and flowing – without the knicks and the catches which, at one time, were so central to the work. The result of this is that a quiet, meditative nature emerges


Born in Porthmadog, north Wales, Elfyn Lewis’s distinctive abstract paintings are held in a number of public and private collections, and widely exhibited worldwide.

In 2009, Lewis was awarded the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the National Eisteddfod of Wales and later went on to be named Welsh Artist of the Year in 2010


Speaking about his process, Elfyn told Nation.Cymru: “The work takes a while and it’s a process that I’ve been working on for many years. I build up layers of paint by dragging it across the surface with a trowel.

Over time these paintings are re-worked, sanded down, left for a bit, and re-worked until finally something appears which I’m happy with. So, a lot of soul searching and living with the paintings.

New works by Elfyn Lewis at Gallery Ten

On their inspiration, he said: “I think we can all over-calculate everything.

“I felt during the past few years with everything going on, that less really is more. I was trying to find a quietness in the work.

“The process of painting gives me some solitude. Painting by its nature is quite lonely and it does take you away from most things.

“You need time and space to do the work to give it your full attention. So time painting and creating something that felt whole/finished has taken a while to create and be happy and feel that it’s complete.

“Hopefully this has worked.

“Stepping out of the page”

Many of these new pieces bleed from their confines – blurring the edges of where the piece begins and ends.

Lewis said: “I’ve been really interested in the edges of the work and how they have become as important as what is usually considered the painting surface.

“I think the sides (edges of the painting) make the work more sculptural and the flow of paint adds a dimension that is not restricted to the surface of the work.

“Again this process takes time, and although they can appear very simple, getting them how I want takes a while.

“Because the paint is so thick it takes a while to dry, and this helps me to think about the work and if it’s right.”


Elfyn Lewis uses a limited palette for this series of work, and re-worked many older paintings, adding further depth and translucence to each piece.

New works by Elfyn Lewis at Gallery Ten

He told us: “I wasn’t happy with some of the paintings and felt they needed something more. So I started re-working and being quite brutal in what I was trying to do.

“I was looking for a particular solace in the work that would feel complete.

“I have many influences including many artists but the landscape of where i’m from and where I live guides me.

“I’m influenced by how I’m feeling, and how confident I can be with what I’m trying to do. I suppose just coming in to the studio every day and trying to re shape or re order work that I wasn’t happy with, took me in this direction, which hopefully has worked.

“Trying to survive”

Touching on the sweeping cuts to Wales’ cultural institutions, we asked Lewis for his take on the climate in Wales right now.

He said: “I think most artists feel the pain of this but the blunt truth is that most of these organisations don’t really go out of their way to help artists on an individual basis.

“Most artists go from one month to the next trying to survive.

“Governments fund and un-fund to win votes, but the National Museum and Library should be protected at all costs.

“Arts organisations do very little for artists other than what fits their agenda.

“There are too many gatekeepers in Wales who make a living out of the artists yet give nothing back.

“Bureaucracy trickles down from governments and so everyone thinks that they know best.

“In an independent Wales we could strive to solve many of the issues we have.

“Unfortunately the wealth from above does not trickle down so unless we change, nothing will. This is true for many of our problems – health, education and how we value the arts/culture.”

Gweledigaeth will run from 31 May – 29 June 2024 at Ten Gallery, Donald Street, Cardiff and can be viewed online at

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